Tuesday, the President of the Republic, still traveling in French Polynesia, inaugurated the construction of a cyclone shelter on the island of Manihi.

With global warming, the inhabitants of the archipelago are increasingly likely to be confronted with these bad weather.

Some even remember the last cyclone, in 1983. 

Emmanuel Macron, for his third day of visit to French Polynesia, inaugurated on the island of Manihi, in the Tuamotu archipelago, the construction of a cyclonic shelter while evoking the protection of the atolls in the face of climate change.

A necessary infrastructure in atolls more threatened than the high islands: they only emerge a few meters above the ocean and solid constructions are rare there.

Some residents in the past were able to survive by tying themselves to a coconut palm blown by strong winds.

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"Our paradise can quickly turn into hell," said the mayor of Manihi, John Drollet, to the head of state, referring to "waves of 12 meters in the worst case" in the archipelago.

"The water came up to the shoulders"

The passage of the last cyclone, the inhabitants remember it.

It was in 1983. "In the motu (islets), some hid in the freezers and an inhabitant hanging on a branch was shaken in the lagoon all night long," recounts Émilienne Natua Lancel, a retiree from Manihi.

She had helped a woman give birth on her atoll ravaged by waves and wind.

The mother had named her baby Orama, after the cyclone.

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"The water came up to the shoulders," Augustin Tama tells Emmanuel Macron in front of the model of the future shelter.

"It's scary because the sea comes from the open sea then the lagoon begins to rise," he continues.

The building, raised more than three and a half meters above the ground, will serve as a school.

In bad weather, it will be able to accommodate almost the entire population of the atoll, i.e. 650 people.

8,000 inhabitants are still not protected

"When we talk here about the consequences of global warming and disturbances, we are talking about your lives, the lives of your children", declares the Head of State in front of the inhabitants of the island.

"I know very well that you have been promised shelters for several decades. I know very well that there are even certain ministers who were able to put the first stones in shelters which then never progressed and that everything the world has passed the buck, ”he added.

The Tuamotus are already equipped with 27 shelters, but 8,000 inhabitants are not yet protected.

A program co-financed by the State and French Polynesia provides for the construction of sixteen other shelters by 2027 in the archipelago.

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